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Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA Eastside Audiology - Issaquah, WA

Woman tries to identify the ringing, whooshing sound only she can hear.

Most people describe tinnitus as a ringing or buzzing sound. But that description, though useful, is woefully inadequate. Those two sounds are not the only ways tinnitus manifests. Rather, this particular hearing condition can make a veritable symphony of different noises. And that’s important to note.

That “buzzing and ringing” description can make it hard for some people to determine if the sounds they’re hearing are really tinnitus symptoms. It might not even occur to your friend Barb that the crashing and whooshing sounds in her ears are a result of tinnitus. So having a more comprehensive notion of what tinnitus sounds like can be good for everyone, including Barb.

Tinnitus May Cause You to Hear These Sounds

Tinnitus is, generally, the sound of noises in your ears. Sometimes, this is a real noise (this is called objective tinnitus). And in other situations, it can be phantom sounds in your ears (that is, the sound doesn’t truly exist and isn’t heard by others – that’s known as subjective tinnitus). The form of tinnitus you’re dealing with will probably (but not always) have an impact on the sound you hear. And you could possibly hear a number of different sounds:

  • Static: In some circumstances, your tinnitus may sound like static. Whether that’s high energy or low energy static depends on the person and their distinct tinnitus.
  • Whooshing: Frequently experienced by people with objective tinnitus, a rhythmic whooshing noise in the ears is often caused by circulation through blood vessels around the ear. With this type of tinnitus, you’re essentially hearing your own heartbeat.
  • Buzzing: At times, it’s not ringing you hear, but a buzzing noise. Many people even hear what sounds like cicada’s or other insects.
  • Screeching: Have you ever heard the sound of grinding metal? You might have heard this sound if you’ve ever been around a construction site. But for people who experience tinnitus, this sound is commonly heard.
  • Ringing: A ringing in the ears is the most prevalent of the tinnitus noises. This is frequently a high pitched ring or whine. Occasionally, this sound is even referred to as a “tone”. Ringing is probably what the majority of people think about when they contemplate tinnitus.
  • High-pitch whistle: Picture the sound of a boiling tea kettle. That exact high pitched squealing is sometimes heard by people with tinnitus. Needless to say, this one can be quite annoying.
  • Roaring: This one is often characterized as “roaring waves”, or even simply “the ocean”. At first, this sound may not be all that unpleasant, but it can quickly become overpowering.
  • Electric motor: The electric motor inside of your vacuum has a unique sound. Some people with tinnitus hear a similar noise when their tinnitus flares up.

A person who is suffering from tinnitus may hear lots of potential noises and this list isn’t complete.

Change Over Time

It’s also totally possible for one individual to hear numerous tinnitus-related noises. Last week, for example, Brandon was hearing a ringing noise. He met up with friends at a loud restaurant last night and is now hearing a loud static noise. It isn’t unusual for the noise you hear from tinnitus to change like this – and it may change frequently.

It’s not well understood why this occurs (that’s because we still don’t really understand what the root causes of tinnitus are).

Canceling Out Tinnitus

There are usually two possible strategies to dealing with tinnitus symptoms: helping your brain understand how to ignore the sound or masking the sound. Whatever your tinnitus sounds might be, the first step is to identify and familiarize yourself with them.

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